The Southern Environmental Law Center hasn't decided what to do next about its twice-denied petition on the Jordan Lake watershed, SELC attorney Kay Bond said today.
During Monday's meeting of the Durham County commissioners, County Attorney Lowell Siler said he expected a lawsuit to come over the City/County Planning Department's ruling that the petition is invalid.
"We have not given any indication to Mr. Siler that we would do that," Bond said.
The possibility of litigation came up Monday when commissioner Becky Heron asked for a report on the petition's status. After Siler said it would be better discussed in closed session due to the possibility of lawsuits.
"The only way to go now is an appeal to superior court," he said.
The petition, which was not on the commissioners' Monday agenda, was referred to a closed session after the regular meeting. The closed session was also called to discuss a lawsuit against the county by Southern Durham Development, which also involves the lake's watershed.
The SELC and Haw River Assembly filed a protest petition on behalf of 24 property owners affected by the county's request to rezone and change the land-use designations of more than 230 acres around the reservoir and tributaries in southwestern Durham County.
If valid, the petition would require at least four commissioners' votes to approve the changes, instead of the normal three out of five. After Planning Director Steve Medlin ruled the petition invalid, the changes passed 3-2 on Oct. 12.
Medlin said the petition signers did not represent the necessary 20 percent of affected land area. After the vote, the SELC reviewed ownership records and claimed the planning department had been mistaken and that the changes failed to win approval.
Last week, Medlin advised commissioners that the petition was still invalid due to problems with some signatures. No further details have been released.
"That's all we know," Bond said. Not knowing the basis for Medlin's second ruling is one reason the SELC has not decided on future action, she said.